by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 4 Paragraph # 3 Study # 5 December 20, 2005 Lincolnton, N.C.
(182)Thesis:The methodology of faith is to "give glory to God".
Introduction:When Paul began what we call chapter four of Romans, he raised the question of Abraham's significance to the question of justification. As we have progressed through the chapter, we have seen that it was Paul's absolute conviction that God's program of salvation for humanity was centered upon Abraham. He was not merely an Old Testament illustration of God's method for justifying a man and bringing him out from under the Law; rather, he was the Old Testament standard by which every claim of justification is measured. And, as such, the central thesis in his salvation was the issue of "faith" as the critical ingredient in the salvation question. So, this evening we come once again to the claim by the apostle Paul that Abraham was justified by faith (4:20).
I. The First Consideration: the "Timing" of the Declaration.
A. Paul says that Abraham's "faith" was reckoned to him for righteousness.
B. But, the declaration follows on the heels of a Genesis 16-18 crisis.
1. The Genesis 16 record is clearly the record of human manipulation in order to attempt to satisfy the longings of Abraham.
a. It is "culturally acceptable", but a step in the wrong direction (Genesis 6/Mark 10).
b. It is "effective" and Abraham settles into "satisfaction".
c. It is the last thing we are told before Moses fast-forwarded 14 years to the issues Paul has brought into focus.
2. The Genesis 16 record cannot be useful as an illustration of the kind of faith that justifies.
a. It was not an act of "faith".
b. It was an act of the flesh of man that "satisfied" him in regard to the promises of God.
c. It was a long-time reality in the experience of Abraham of being satisfied with the "production of his own ability". This was exactly what Paul militantly opposed. He even used this Abrahamic "failure" in Galatians 4:22-31 to make his point that the way of the "flesh" is death.
C. It is not the Genesis 16 events which dominate Paul's argument, but the "outworking" of those events in chapters 17-18 to which he appeals.
1. It is the "correction" of the error of chapter 16 that brings on the "crisis" that provides the illustration of Abraham's "faith".
a. God does not chide Abraham for his fleshliness, but He does underwrite the action so that it becomes a major factor in generating the conflict of our age.
b. God does not yield to Abraham on the point: Ishmael cannot be the chosen seed.
2. It is Abraham's "reckoning" through the issues in Genesis 17-18 that, then, become the illustration of "faith".
a. He faces the onslaught of "unbelief"...
1) He has to accept God's rejection of Ishmael.
2) He has to face the impossibility of the promise from the human perspective.
3) He has to deal with the divine declaration which brooks no argument.
4) He "laughs" in initial disbelief as the "infection" sets in.
b. He learns from the facts in the face of "the glory of God".
1) When Sarai "laughs" just as he did, he hears the question of Yahweh to her: "Is it a part of My "glory" to be too weak to do what I have said?"
2) He faces, and answers, the question for himself as one who initiated the "laugh of disbelief".
3) He comes to understand the fundamental issue of "faith": He Who makes the promise is responsible to fulfill it and the omnipotent God is fully capable of functioning under that responsibility.
D. Paul claims that this exercise of faith has some connection to Abraham's "justification"... but, in the light of his insistence on the historical setting and timing of Genesis 15:6, it is a question of what this "connection" is.
II. The Claim of the Apostle.
A. He did not say, nor mean to say, that Abraham was not justified prior to the birth of Isaac.
B. What he did say is that the "faith" that justifies is "of this kind" -- i.e., it decides the issues on the basis of what was promised and whether the "glory" of God is sufficient to bring it to pass.
1. This is very much like James's argument in James 2 where he claims that Abraham was "jusitified by works when he offered up Isaac". Both James and Paul are as clear as they can be that the "faith" that justifies is a very real conviction that has enormously large consequences in the choices that flow out of it.
2. The point is that the "faith that justifies" does not "waver" at crunch time when it is challenged in a point-blank way -- of what good is a "faith" that fails just when you need it?